Monday, March 26, 2007

Mary's Open Heart

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. It actually fell on Sunday, but that's Resurrection Day, so it got the Biblical Bump. Fine by me... because a solemnity in Lent means all fasts are off! Woohoo! Bring on the snacks! It's cool to be Catholic!

Just shy of nine months from now, we'll celebrate the fruit of the womb that was conceived this day; the Word Made Flesh! Miracle of Miracles!

Now sometimes we can see Mary's yes as such an easy thing, all roses and sweetness. Really, how difficult would it be to raise the Perfect Son? But let's remember that Mary was a true Hebrew, and as such she would know the prophets and the prophecies by heart. She knew her people were searching for the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Mary had the tender heart to see that the Messiah would be this Suffering Servant that Isaiah alluded to, not a military man that the militant were hoping for.

So the shadow of the Cross fell over the cradle Joseph had built. In the light of this truth, Mary's YES becomes so much more powerful, so much more of a sacrifice and a death to self. Her openness to God and to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit was closer to the openness of the wound that Jerome Miller describes below (After all, it was her heart that Simeon the priest said would be pierced through even as she cradled the newborn Messiah in her arms that day).

This is a reflection I've had for years, stashed in my files of Spiritual Gems. I don't know where I first found it or who it was who first gave it to me to ponder. But hear it now with the vision of Mary behind it all. Sweet Mother of Sorrows, pray for us! The path to wholeness and holiness, I believe, must begin with this radical vulnerability before God and the mystical movements of life....

"A more essential condition is the willingness to be devastated, by which I mean the willingness to let the mortal wounds penetrate one's heart so deeply that it is broken completely open by it. This is, I think, a pregnant image. For it suggests that the deepest lessons the heart has to deliver to us become accessible only when it is ruptured. It is anguish that makes the heart an open book because the wound it causes pierces all the way through to the core. These are terrible lessons, the kind that fill one with nausea. We like to think our lives would be happier if we could find a way to avoid learning them; but the only way to do that is to close one's heart and keep it closed, so that nothing gets in or out of it - to make oneself a heart of stone. It is terrible to put into words the one real alternative to this avoidance. But I see no way to get around what seems to be the harshest, the most merciless truth about the human heart - I mean the fact that, to keep it open, once it has been pierced, one must allow it to be an open wound."

- Jerome Miller

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